DeShields takes over multicultural congress

Gregory DeShields is the new executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress. — ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

When he was first exposed to the Multicultural Affairs Congress back in 1991, Gregory DeShields was impressed with the organization’s ability to connect people of color who worked in the city’s tourism industry.

Twenty-three years later, DeShields is now leading the organization. Monday marked his first day as the new executive director of MAC. As a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), MAC works to increase the city’s share of the multicultural meetings and tourism markets.

“It’s always been my desire to take on this role because I see the significance and the impact and the importance of an organization like MAC. I’ve been anxious to make this move,” said DeShields, who was the former managing director of business development for Temple University Fox School of Business and Tourism and Hospitality Management.

“Moving from Temple to MAC, I feel like I’ve gone through this preparation for this role – that I have a deeper understanding of what it is I am supposed to do here.”

In his role, DeShields will focus on supporting the sales efforts to increase room nights within the multicultural sector in Philadelphia. He will work with PHLCVB’s sales team to help secure new business. He also seeks to build relationships with the city’s multicultural communities to ensure that their resources can be incorporated in how the city is sold as a destination.

While this marks DeShields first week on the job, he’s already charting his vision.

“I would like to see the organization expand its engagement to really embrace this idea of diversity and inclusion because the focus has been very culturally specific and I think that the world has changed from 25 years ago,” said DeShields, 55, who has served on MAC’s board for more than 10 years.

“Under my watch, I would really like to navigate the organization to be much more inclusive and really embrace the word diversity, but always with the focus, if not the underlying purpose, to ensure that we can grow the number of room nights of people who come to Philadelphia and that the destination itself is considered to be a world class destination.”

Beyond the identified African American, Hispanic, Asian, Indian and Native American markets, DeShields said he would like to do more around the LBGT and international markets.

DeShields is a Philadelphia native who grew up in West Oak Lane and went to Olney High School.

“In this role, what I want to be able to do is to serve as a role model to kids who grow up in Philly,” DeShields said.

He recalled his days of catching the bus home from Broad and Olney as a youngster.

“I would hope that for a kid, like me who stood on the corner watching for a bus and trying to figure out how I can make my way, I could serve as an example that Philly can turn out some pretty talented people and that you just have to have confidence in yourself. We have a lot of people who transplant in and I think it’s important when it’s someone who’s native that has actually made it,” he said.

DeShields will continue to serve as an adjunct instructor for Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality.

DeShields encourages students who aspire to pursue careers in hospitality and tourism to consider non-traditional roles within the industry.

“I think that there is a more of a diverse focus of non-traditional roles in the industry. I’m a big advocate to encourage young people to think about the strategic side as opposed to the operational side,” he said noting that there are opportunities in areas such as acquisition, brand development, human resources and finance,” he said.

He has a wealth of experience within the hospitality industry. DeShields has worked as a manager for companies such as Hyatt Hotel, Korman Communities, Omni Hotels and Sheraton Hotels and has served as general manager for Opportunities Inn, the hospitality training division of Opportunities Industrialization Center.

“Having worked alongside Greg on the MAC board for over a decade, I have experienced firsthand his superior leadership skills, knowledge of the hospitality industry, expertise in multicultural markets, and innovative approach to getting goals accomplished,” William Wilson, MAC board chairman said in a press release.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Greg in his new role.”

DeShields is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., with an associate’s degree in hotel and restaurant management and bachelor’s degree in hospitality management.

He is active member of the Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Educators; National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators, and Developers; and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

He has held board membership and committee chair positions or groups such as the Multicultural Diversity Advisory Council, Center City District, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and SKAL Philadelphia.

 

Contact Staff Writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or ajones@phillytrib.com.

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